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Fight the flu with salmon

Updated: March 7, 2014 1:23PM

In winter, many of us may not be getting all the vitamin D we need. According to the National Institutes of Health website, “Observational studies suggest that vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of respiratory infections.”

What to do in Chicago’s sun-deprived season? Consider eating samon. It contains significant quantities of vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin” found in some foods and produced on skin exposed to sunlight. Salmon also is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are said to strengthen the immune system.

So salmon is good food for flu season.

Cooking salmon may reduce some nutrients. To maximize nutrition, don’t cook the fish; cure it. Curing is like cooking without heat.

“Gravlax” is salmon that’s been covered (in a sense, put in a “grave”) to marinate. To prepare gravlax, don’t bury the salmon; simply put the fish in a container with sugar and salt. To accelerate the curing process, you can place weight on the fish.

Our experience has been that wild-caught salmon makes tastier gravlax, and there’s evidence wild salmon also is higher in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.

Here’s a modified version of a recipe used by Chef Gregory Ellis of 2 Sparrows (553 W. Diversey):

For every 1pound of salmon filet, coat with a quarter cup of brown sugar, ½ teaspoon white pepper, and 3 tablesoons kosher salt.

Place 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh dill between filets and fit them together, open-side to open-side, in a casserole dish.

Cover in plastic wrap, add weight on top (e.g., a few cans of beans); refrigerate (Ellis flips fish daily to “cure more evenly”).

Curing time varies by fish and refrigerator temperature; Ellis cures salmon for 4 days; ours is ready in about 2. Rinse, slice thin and serve. —David Hammond

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